|'I believe 100% that all republican groups should call a ceasefire': Dominic McGlinchey|
Many dissident republicans, including Dominic McGlinchey, feel the armed struggle has long served its purpose, but there are still diverging opinions.
Dominic McGlinchey is steeped in militant republicanism. As a teenager, he would visit Bellaghy Cemetery on Easter Sunday morning - lily proudly pinned on his lapel - to lay wreaths on the graves with the rest of the village after Mass. A few years later, he was "deeply honoured" to read out the Easter statement on behalf of the Provisional IRA in Swatragh 10 miles down the road.
In 2006, McGlinchey split from Sinn Fein and became prominent in dissident republican circles. Today, he is among those arguing that 'armed struggle' should end. "I believe 100% that all republican groups should call a ceasefire," he says.
Of course, it's up to them, but you can't continue doing the same old thing over and over again. You can't keep doing it just because you've always done it, and that's the way it is. Why should we keep putting generation after generation through this? People are fed up with armies dressed up in uniforms marching down roads. They know it doesn't work. As republicans, we have to stop living in our bubble and look to the outside world.
The son of INLA leaders Dominic and Mary McGlinchey, he was nine years old in 1987 when his mother was shot dead in Dundalk as she bathed his brother Declan. Aged 16, he was with his father when he was shot dead in a Drogheda phone box in 1994. McGlinchey was questioned by the PSNI about the 2009 murder of two British soldiers at Massareene. He strongly denies any involvement.
He says if republicans are to justify using violence, then "it has to take you somewhere" which the New IRA and Continuity IRA campaigns don't. "There is nothing about them that would make the British apprehensive," he says. He dismisses the traditional argument that "an armed campaign is needed to keep the flame lit" for the next generation. "That can be done through education or producing Irish history podcasts," he says. McGlinchey stresses the consequences of violence:
Once you pull that trigger, someone is dead, and it's more than one individual. It's the life of their family, and your family. It's the shopkeeper who witnessed what happened. It's the child on the passing bus, forever traumatised. It's the ambulanceman who picked up the body.
Republicans "must be prepared to go to politically uncomfortable places", he says.
There's a danger that we become conditioned to our doors being kicked in, to standing in white-line pickets, and to going to jail. We need to look at new ways to climb the mountain.
McGlinchey wants young republicans to prepare for a border poll:
Brexit is the biggest opportunity for us since partition. Yet anti-Agreement republicans are becoming more and more marginalised every day because of armed actions. I'd like to see energy focused on discussing what type of united Ireland we want. How will we establish a link between a young loyalist in Carrickfergus and a young nationalist in Cork? What will we offer women, gay people and ethnic minorities? How will we avoid a society of the haves and have-nots? Look at the advances the far-Right have made in Ireland in a short space of time with negative politics. It's a bad impact, but it's still an impact. Anti-agreement republicanism has existed for over two decades and has made no impact at all - they must take stock. I want to see our youth out there knocking doors, focused on community activism and, most importantly, staying safe.
Anthony McIntyre served 18 years in jail for the murder of a UVF man in 1976. He is a critic of Sinn Fein's political direction but has long opposed continuing violence. He brands the New IRA "the most ineffective IRA ever" and says it poses a threat predominantly to its own community as it has "inflicted no casualties on the state" in five years. "I see it as a political cult that is self-reverential and has no idea of what is going on in the wider world," he says.
They may claim to be the same as the 1916 leaders, but they're not. The men and women of Easter week marched down O'Connell Street and fought, and they also knew when to quit. Dissidents are not 'engaging with the enemy' - they spend more time marching around in sunglasses posturing - and they don't know when to end their phoney war. Continuing it only allows MI5 to keep fine-tuning their surveillance, intelligence and security techniques.
Like McGlinchey, he believes dissident groups are "heavily infiltrated". McIntyre went to jail when he was 16:
I've a son that age, and if he was out doing now what I did then, I'd be distraught. I've an obligation to point out that I didn't make the right choice. If I was to do it again, I'd join St Vincent de Paul rather than the IRA because I'd be making a more useful contribution to society - and I say that as an atheist.
McIntyre wants to see focus on a border poll:
It doesn't offer revolutionary change, but incremental change is better than none. It's about trying to lessen British influence in Ireland. There are republicans who object, on strict ideological grounds, but it's Latin Mass stuff. They say 'We need to fight', but fight for what? Republicanism doesn't produce victories, it produces political careers.
Former Republican Sinn Fein president Des Dalton resigned from the party last month after he was suspended for saying that dissident republican violence was "counter-productive and copper-fastened partition". He had been a party member for three decades. "I've no regrets," he says.
You have to be true to yourself. I didn't do anything wrong or anything that compromised republican principles. It would have been easy for me to sit back and say nothing.
From Kildare, Dalton was an Ogra Fianna Fail member who joined Republican Sinn Fein at 17:
I grew up in a staunch Fianna Fail home, but became disillusioned with the party. In opposition, it had rejected the Anglo-Irish Agreement for recognising the unionist veto, then took a different stance when it secured power. It extradited republicans. I remember Dessie Ellis being flown to Britain on a stretcher when on hunger-strike. It was a very emotional image for me.
While Dalton doesn't believe there will be a united Ireland in the short-term, he sees a "far more open political atmosphere" post-Brexit than ever before.
An armed campaign can't be currently justified from a moral or practical point of view. Community support just isn't there - the water for the fish to swim in is too shallow. The bravery of Bobby Sands and 1916 leaders is inspirational, but it's time for a different type of bravery now. I'd rather see young people channeling their energy into productive political activism than heading like lemmings over the cliff edge and filling Maghaberry and Portlaoise jails for a campaign that just isn't happening anyway. Perpetual armed struggle and repeating the same mantra is not working. It's not advancing republican ideals. It's keeping the groups on the periphery of politics.
Cait Trainor, an independent Co Armagh republican, was charged with encouraging terrorism under the Terrorism Act after a TV interview in 2010. She had told Channel Four: "I support the right of every Irish man and woman to participate in armed struggle." She sees the current situation as unchanging for republicans. "I fundamentally disagree with those who say today is different, and there are opportunities for us now that previously weren't there," she says.
British rule has never been so strong. Sinn Fein might say that the Orange state has been smashed and there are equal rights for Catholics. But, for republicans, nothing short of an all-Ireland republic is a victory.
Trainor won't "felon-set fellow republicans" who are "doing what they've always done". She says there is a "growing trend of post-republicanism" by those "who present themselves as republican elders, and patronise and demoralise the younger generation". She opposes a border poll and believes, if one is called, nationalists should boycott it as they did in 1973:
Irish freedom should not be dependent on the whim of a popularity contest called by a British Secretary of State. Ireland is not Scotland or Catalonia. An Irish republic was declared in 1916 and voted for in 1918.
Trainor believes that a border poll is "fraught with danger" for republicans:
There is a mistaken belief that victory is guaranteed. While more Catholics have been born in the North, the nationalist vote has remained almost static in the last decade. A 'no' vote would set republicans back decades. London would dangle it in front of the world and say, 'The people of Ireland have endorsed British rule.' Republicans seeking a border poll are like turkeys voting for Christmas.
Des Long from Limerick is a founding member of the Provisional IRA and sat on its executive for 17 years. He says he would be lying if he told dissident groups to "abandon an armed campaign". He believes they are "very fragmented with a lot of big egos and many people wanting to be boss", but he doesn't support a ceasefire. As long as the British occupy Ireland there will be people who resist," he says. "British soldiers may not be on the streets, but there are still thousands of them garrisoned in this country."
Long has "no faith" in a border poll:
It's 100 years since the signing of the Treaty, and we're no further on in getting rid of the British than we ever were. I would love to see them leaving without a shot fired or anybody killed or sent to jail but the British will never leave until they're driven out.